Internet connectivity is a perennial problem in most of rural America, and the Eastern Shore is no different. Many localities saw C.A.R.E.S. Act funding as a way to help bridge the digital divide, but these rural areas are finding it difficult to find contractors who can complete the work in time for the CARES Act’s spending deadline.
Northampton County finds itself in this boat. The Eastern Shore’s southern County had originally hoped it would be able to use a portion of the CARES Act funding to get high speed internet to underserved areas, focusing on school children. However, they were unable to find a contractor who could commit to complete the work by the December 30 deadline.
County Finance Director John Chandler informed the Board of Supervisors Tuesday night these funds totaling $293,157 have been redistributed to other projects, including various building and vehicle enhancements, the Eastern Shore Area Agency on Aging and business grants.
Northampton County still has approximately $1,056,690 in CARES funding not under contract and expects to have the remaining funds committed soon. Any C.A.R.E.S. Act funds not spent by the deadline will be returned to the Federal government.
A Democratically controlled Congress and a Republican Senate, along with President Donald Trump, have been unable to reach an agreement to extend the deadline.